KOCHI: For the past few days, Kerala has been experiencing a deluge unprecedented in the past several years, displacing 53,500 people. Though the opening of the shutters of swelling dams across the state has been one of the main reasons for floods that paralysed many regions in Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Idukki, Alappuzha and Ernakulam districts, the gravity of the disaster is a wake-up call.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Disaster Management Chief Muralee Thummarukudy says it’s high time the people of the state woke up to the grim reality that encroachment of riverfronts, high risk hilly terrains, flood lines along the downstream areas of the dams and unscientific land development for infrastructure will do no good, but only bring catastrophe. Statistics reveal 578 people died in Kerala due to natural disasters like flood, rain and landslides between March 2013 and August 10, 2018 while the damage to agricultural land, livestock and infrastructure was huge.
Though the disaster management plan prepared by the state government right from 2005 had identified the state as one of the most vulnerable areas to natural disasters, no concrete effort has been taken to regulate massive encroachment on riverfronts and ensuring the protection of flood lines of the rivers.
Among the four southern states, Kerala has recorded the second highest number of deaths after Tamil Nadu in natural disasters in the past four years. For all these years, Kerala’s infrastructure development was footed on the strong notion the state was comparatively a safer zone. But experts say now the state should give priority to a ‘Safety Culture’ to ensure development is done only based on scientific risk assessment.
It’s a fact the population density of Kerala, which is 860 persons per sqkm as per the 2011 census, is putting undue stress on the land.
“The monsoon fury and floods should be a wake-up call to the Kerala Government. There should be flood lines for all the rivers and it should be demarcated and protected. In the next few years, there will be a rise in sea level and letting out waters from dams to the sea will cease to be an option. Scientific planning of land development is a must to lessen the intensity of natural disasters,” said Muralee.